When teen volunteer Nickolas coordinated a volunteer project with his Boy Scouts group, he interviewed our Farm Manager Reyna about the work Bounty does and how the community can help.
Nickolas: What is the growth and distribution of affordable produce in our area?
Reyna: Formed in summer 2006 as a result of a Community Needs Assessment with initial seed funding from the Hub of Petaluma Foundation, Petaluma Bounty’s mission is to create a thriving local food system with healthy food for everyone through collaboration, education and promoting self-reliance. The Community Needs Assessment identified low-income individuals and families, as well as seniors who suffer from food insecurity.
Most small scale farmers can’t afford to feed low-income people (since they are low-income themselves) and most low-income consumers can’t afford to buy locally grown produce. This is a systems problem and Petaluma Bounty seeks to design community solutions. We push beyond hunger relief toward community food security (and hunger prevention) through programming that expands our community’s capacity to feed ourselves. Petaluma Bounty’s vision is to grow a thriving local food system where consumers make informed decisions; farmers make a decent living while prioritizing ecological stewardship of the land; and all people – regardless of income – have access to healthy food.
Through our programs, Petaluma Bounty is improving the quality of food offered by emergency food distributors through the Bounty Hunters gleaning program. We are increasing low-income consumers’ purchasing power through local affordable food incentives such Market Match, sliding scale farm stands and CSA memberships, as well as maximizing awareness and participation in federal food programs such as WIC, SNAP, and Meals on Wheels. We are increasing food literacy – knowledge of how food is grown and where it comes from – for children, youth and adults. We are working to change attitudes and appetites for healthy food and active lifestyles. We are expanding our community’s capacity to grow its own food by supporting the construction of community gardens and empowering others by sharing our knowledge. And finally, we are engaging our whole community to become active, informed agents of change of their food system.
Nickolas: Besides your operation what is being done about it are there other operations or programs addressing this that you know of?
Reyna: The above mentioned programs that focus on creating incentives and increasing the purchasing power of limited-income individuals and families: WIC, SNAP/CALFRESH, Farmers’ Market LIFE.
You can see the above organizations and programs are focused on long-term, sustainable solutions while the other side of the coin are these donation-based organizations and efforts that help get food to folks who need it right now. For example, Meals on Wheels, Redwood Empire Food Bank, various churches and charities operating hot meals and donations. COTS also provides food assistance.
Nickolas: What can your people in the community do to help?
Reyna: Join us! We are uniquely positioned to welcome any and all to come learn about farming, food, and nutrition with us by digging in the soil alongside us and community members – the more connected to our food and community we are, the more we can understand why growing sustainably, growing local and growing conscious minds is important to ensuring a healthy and fair local food system. Or join any of the local organizations helping to feed folks in our area. You can look for any number of school and community gardens that are in your neighborhood to help resource or volunteer. Support local business and local hardworking farmers by buying local, organic produce – Sonoma County is an agricultural-rich area with a great climate allowing one to grow many different fruits and veggies and reducing our “food miles.”